One might assume that racers would try to preserve their vehicles for the big money on the line for Sunday’s Lucas Oil Challenge Cup races, but that was not the case on Saturday. Crews were burning the midnight oil getting their vehicles back together for the $100,000 that was on the line on Sunday. The first truck race was Super Lite, and with the normal car count (unlike the other cup races where classes were combined) they actually had a cleaner race than Saturday!
Austin Kimbrell started on the pole and jumped out to an early lead ahead of Kyle Lucas and RJ Anderson before Mike McCarthy ended up on his lid at Turn 1 on the second lap. They restarted the race and only one more lap went by before Kyle Lucas took the lead from Kimbrell, but he bicycled in Turn 3 and RJ Anderson capitalized in his Walker Evans Racing truck. Once he had a clean track RJ walked away from the rest of the chaos unfolding behind him on his way to a $10,000 pay day. Jesse Johnson rolled and was t-boned by Jason Ellis and Chad George got put into the fence when going three wide through the last turn on the truck. Despite getting bunched up no one had anything for RJ Anderson, and Austin Kimbrell battled with Patrick Clark but eventually had to settle for third.
The next race combined the Pro Lite and Pro Buggy classes. The trucks started in front of the buggies, and despite the disadvantage Cameron Steele showed his true colors running his buggy. The starting order inverted season standings for the top ten in each class and then put the remaining vehicles at the back of the pack. 27 vehicles took the track with Matt Cook and Jacob Pearson starting in the pressure cooker on the first row. Corey Sisler jumped out to an early lead ahead of Kyle LeDuc until the yellow came out when Austin Kimbrell rolled on the step up jump after Turn 3.
Kyle put some distance between the rest of the field and his Rockstar Energy Drink / Toyo Tires truck with Sisler, Brandt, Deegan, and Casey Currie following. It was looking like the trucks were going to walk away with all of the podium spots early on, but Justin “Bean” Smith was methodically working his way through the crowd. On Turns 4 and 5 in particular, Bean was able to carry speed in his Competitive Metals / Metal Mulisha AlumiCraft and pick off trucks like a short course assassin. Pro Lite Unlimiteds started dropping out at the race went on, first with Deegan, then LeDuc experience suspension failure after hard contact, and the engine in Sisler’s AEM Electronics truck going away with a huge James Bond-style smokescreen. This paved the way for Bean to take the $20,000 victory with Brandt in second and Casey Currie somehow finishing in third despite hood covering the entire windshield and blocking visibility out of his Monster Energy truck. On the podium Brandt had some words for Deegan, but the animosity on and off the track was not limited to just these two.
The grand finale of the season was the Pro2 Unlimited versus Pro4 Unlimited Lucas Oil Cup presented by Toyota. Robby Woods started on the pole next to Jeff Geiser. Carl Renezeder chose to drive his 2WD Lucas Oil / General Tires Ford, feeling that the starting position was a bigger advantage than 4WD. On Saturday, the Pro4 Unlimiteds ran about two seconds faster than the Pro2 Unlimiteds with lap times around 45 seconds. The Pro4s started half a lap back from the Pro2s, with Curt LeDuc starting next to rival Adrian Cenni.
Robby Woods jumped out to an early lead in the Lucas Slick Mist /Superchips Chevy and held it through the first half of the race ahead of Carl Renezeder. It took a few laps for the fastest Pro4s to catch the Pro2s, but the caution came out when Rodrigo Ampudia rolled the Papas and Beer Ford multiple times on Turn 4. While the tight right hand Turn 3 claimed most the victims on Saturday, Turn 5 was the killer on Sunday. It was the final turn on the track after the either / or section when the two lines converged before the main straight.
The caution bunched up the field, and Kyle LeDuc and Adrian Cenni were taking advantage of the situation and chewing through the Pro2s. Kyle seemed to pass a competitor in every corner in his Rockstar Energy Drink / Makita Tools Ford and set the fast lap for the race. Unfortunately right after taking the lead, Kyle lost a right rear wheel, ending his chances for victory and causing Evan Evans to roll in the same spot Ampudia has tossed his truck just a few laps prior. This put Robby Woods back up front until Todd LeDuc rolled Woods on Turn 3, causing him to get black flagged. That put Carl Renezeder and Adrian Cenni up front, but a questionable call saw Cenni black flagged for contact with Carl. Instead of going to the back of the field Cenni just drove off the track in disgust!
All of the drama opened the door for Robert “Fig” Naughton to take the lead late in the race in his Stronghold Motorsports Pro2. He was followed by Stronghold teammate Jeremy McGrath, Carl Renezeder, and Brian Deegan with one lap to go. On the final turn Carl got into the back of McGrath and unsettled his truck, but got by to finish second. McGrath was fuming and drove right up to Carl’s door while the officials scrambled to make a decision on the contact. Once the smoke had cleared Carl was pushed back to 9th and Deegan took second for $20,000 with McGrath in third for $10,000 and Naughton taking home the big $30,000 paycheck.
That wrapped up the 2011 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series with action and drama up to the very end. We don’t expect any of these guys to forgive or forget in the off season, so expect even more trash talking, banging, and wide open racing in 2012.
Words by Harry Wagner
Photos by Jason Zindroski at HighRev Photography